Monday, December 3, 2018

YOLO folks passage to Antigua on MIRA Nov 2018

We left Portsmouth at 6:15 AM on the scheduled rally departure date of Nov. 4th.  We wanted to be the first out so other boats didn't have to squeeze around us to get out.  We'd already had a mishap of that sort and we had a long way to go to get to the spot where the rally suggested we cross the Gulf Stream.  Here is a Jason selfie with Glenn, Pam, and Karen as we motored up the Elizabeth River to get to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  The crew on MIRA left the USA in good spirits.

It was still cold, so we all had our foul weather gear on to keep warm.  Glenn and Jason settle into the helm to take us out of the Bay.
Glenn giving us a final run-through of the instruments on MIRA.

Glenn and Jason on the clear, crisp morning of our departure for Antigua.  The official rally destination was Tortola, in the BVI, but MIRA was headed to Antigua, a little further SE, as Pam and Glenn had just spent time in the Virgin Islands.

Glenn and Jason make adjustments to the genoa headsail while under way the first day.  We were to sail south, close in along the coast to get around Cape Hatteras and stay out of the opposing Gulf Stream and bad conditions offshore.  Nasty weather awaited us.
Pam and I volunteered to be 'net controllers' for the boats that had SSB (Single Side Band radios).  We would start the radio roll call and document the boats' positions and make sure all was well, twice a day at a scheduled time and frequency.  This only lasted for a few days and then the boats were too far scattered to make radio contact, so we only did it a few times.  MIRA had a good radio setup and had to act as relay for boats that couldn't hear others.  Good to know your radio works so well when at sea!  And this was Pam's first time using the SSB.  She did great.
The sunset our first night of the passage.  Those clouds should tell us of changing weather conditions.  A tropical wave was forming to the north of the BVI--not something you want to sail into.  A tropical wave can turn into a tropical low, then a tropical depression, then a hurricane in short order.  The rally organizers said they were watching it....
Glenn and Jason taking in a reef on the sail before dark the first night.  We kept the sail plan conservative to avoid having any emergency issues with too much sail up in the middle of the night.  The in-mast furling of the main sail meant we could reef it to any size, but it can be touchy getting the angles right and we didn't want to risk doing it with too much pressure on the sail. We really wanted Glenn's guidance in using that furling system, so we tried to just set it so we could forget it overnight.  I ended up waking Glenn too often to help reef in the genoa or main as the weather just didn't want to stabilize.
The weather worsened and the wind and waves picked up to gale force as we made our way around Cape Hatteras.  It was not fun or comfortable.  All except Jason were taking sea sickness meds to avoid being incapacitated. We were taking waves over the boat, and Antares are pretty tall boats!  Hatches were leaking and dripping in.
We couldn't believe the rally would send 20+ boats out into this kind of weather!  A third of the boats turned back or diverted with sick crew and/or damages in the first few days.  Some rally participants were new to sailing and passage-making, so I can only imagine what was going on in their minds in these conditions.  Not good thoughts, I can assure you.
MIRA's route is the light yellow track below.  MIRA is the boat furthest east.  You can see when the rally folks advised boats the day before to divert to Bermuda or the Turks and Caicos if they couldn't make landfall before the storm strenghtened.  Boats went every which way.  MIRA kept heading slowly east, hoping the storm would pass below us before we got there.
 How the boats all finished their passages.
This was the storm track we were all trying to avoid. 
Here Pam and Glenn are tethered in with their lifejackets at the helm as we got bounced around on the open ocean.  Dishes were banging around in the cupboards, and we could hear the silverware tray sloshing its contents in its drawer.  I opened a cupboard to try to rearrange the dishes to stop clashing.  The boat lurched and the plates and bowls tumbled on top of me as I was thrown onto the stairs butt first.  One shattered Corell bowl and a bruise, but the dishes were rearranged to hold better after that.  I did have to dig a shard of glass out of Pam's foot a day or so later, but it healed just fine.
We got through the rough weather just as we were considering where to hole up.  The boats behind us had it even worse.  We saw a break in the weather and turned to start our crossing of the Gulf Stream.  With its 2-5 knot current, you want to cross it at its narrowest point so you don't lose too much ground as the current pushes you NE.  The Gulf Stream crossing was very benign and about the best sailing we had the entire trip!  Suddenly we'd gotten back into the warmer waters and we shed our winter/foul weather gear in favor of shorts and t-shirts again.  A rare photo of Jason cooking in the galley.
Glenn and Pam with the cockpit table set for lunch and snacks.  Oh yeah, we're back in the warmth and sunshine, now, baby.
Chips and salsa never go out of style for us.
Glenn and Jason solving the problems of the world in the cockpit of MIRA.
Pam has her comfy spot on the helm seat.
Karen at the helm, watching the squalls get closer.  MIRA has a full set of enclosure panels to roll/zip down to keep the entire cockpit dry in inclement weather.  Very nice. A sheet line tore the side panel there out early on, but it stayed in place most of the time, even with the stitching ripped out.  A quick repair for Antigua.
Glenn trimming the genoa as the wind got a bit breezy.
Jason enjoying the ride on a sunny day.
Karen and Jason at lunch. White bean chicken chile this day, I believe....yummy.
Karen in one of her favorite spots when the seas are peaceful.  Just like on YOLO.
Pam's Barbicoa Beef with fresh black bean and corn salsa.  The seas were calmed and the weather was nice so the captain decided we could have a glass of their Argentinian red wine with our meal.  We decided to keep the main meal in the middle of the day so we could see what we're eating and to socialize a bit when we were all awake.
The first mahi mahi.  The first few days were too rough to even consider throwing out a line, so we were happy to catch this little gal on Glenn's offshore rod.  Delicious eating.
Within half an hour, we had mahi #2 on the yoyo hand reel.  Jason brings the wriggling fish aboard and is waiting for us to get the tarp down to kill and fillet it.
Glenn and Karen team up to fillet the mahi mahi.  Not always an easy task on the floor of the cockpit on a moving boat.  But it was too big to use the fish cleaning station attached to the grill.  And this was a small one!
Glenn and Pam on the rumble seats on MIRA, their 2017 Antares catamaran.  We hear the factory is doing away with these iconic seats--a shame, and a mistake in our minds.  We all love them!
A rich stroganoff for this hearty meal.  We definitely ate well on this passage.  Pam is a great cook and prepared so many meals in advance.  So organized, too.  We had all the necessary ingredients together in bags for anything that wasn't already pre-prepared.  We had menu items taped to a cupboard and could decide what meal to make based on the conditions and who was cooking.
The tiny moon set early and we had no light at night for most nights of the passage.  Being on watch was boring as it was so dark you couldn't tell the sea from the sky.  Nothing to watch on the cloudy nights; it was just pitch black out there.  We rarely saw a ship.  It felt like we were pretty alone out there, cuz we were!
We stopped in mid-ocean to take a dip.  We'd continued east to avoid nasty weather to the norh and south of us, but were getting concerned about fuel usage as we motored east in no wind for days.  Other rally boats were instructed to divert to Bermuda or Turks and Caicos, but we decided to stay in the no-wind zone and continue east.  It was the right choice.  This swim was a refreshing break and we all scrubbed up a bit, then had a quick freshwater transom shower.  We didn't want to use the diesel needed to run the genset to power the watermaker, so we were being frugal with water, too. YOLO folks were used to this.  The ocean water felt great!
Jason, Pam and Glenn in four-mile deep Atlantic ocean.  Hard to believe it was this calm after we'd had the snot kicked out of us for the first two days. MIRA took a beating but got us safe and sound to Antigua as planned.
A quick smooch in the Atlantic.
Even with no wind, we trailed a safety line, just in case.  It felt good to get in the water again!
Another mahi gave itself up for us to eat.  Number 3 for our passage, and the last one we caught.  That spray bottle is full of rum that is so strong, it's illegal to ship it on a plane.  We squirt it into the gills of the mahi mahi to kill it with kindness.  The fish were all smaller than we remembered.
Glen barbecuing the mahi mahi; of course it was delicious!
 Karen selfie at the helm while Glenn cooks.
It doesn't get much better than this.  Except we were motoring, not sailing.  Still heading east to avoid adverse winds and weather to the south. We passed Bermuda before we ever turned south.
Pam enjoying her watch at the helm on a nice day.
Glenn getting ready to tether up to do his daily deck check.  A good, safe captain, he walked the deck every day to look for problems before they became problems.  We like this procedure, and it was reinforced when he discovered some minor issues that could've turned ugly.  Easy fixes when caught early.
Karen and Jason at the cockpit table for another sumptuous meal.
The two guys in the galley at the same time for meal prep!  This never happens!  And they were not working on the engine or the bilges.  A true rarity.
Those clouds always rolled up into squalls for us.  A sudden gust of wind and a change of direction, sometimes with rain.  Sneaky clouds.
 Thumbs up from Glenn; life is good on MIRA.
More squall clouds that created havoc when they overtook us.
 The clouds on the horizon looked like the ones you can make shapes out of, but they tended to turn into squalls as they got closer; one after another after another for the last few days.
 Karen selfie on watch.
 A pretty sunset at sea.
 Jason reading a reference book in the salon.  Is this how he spent his watch?
 Pam checking for a cell signal as we got close to the island.  A rainshower rinsed much of the salt off for us before we arrived.
 Coming into Antigua.
 Glenn and Pam use headsets to communicate from the helm at times.
Surveying the harbor in Falmouth.  Getting lines ready to dock.
 Glenn talking to the marina.  We couldn't get into the desired slip just yet so we tied up at the end of the mega-yacht dock temporarily.
 Successful landing.  Way out at the farthest end of the dock possible, next to a huge megayacht, Artemis.  Other huge megayachts loom ahead of us at another marina.  We were surrounded by big money boats.  We used the time before getting to the final slip to clean the boat.
 .Jason and Glenn checking the engines.
  The dock here zig zags out from the shore, with some pretty big yachts tied up to it, usually stern to (backed up to the dock).  Here, a large sailing yacht prepares to turn to go stern-to to the dock.  Lots of money in the boats here in Falmouth.
 This mega-yacht is the prettiest boat I've ever seen!  It's 100m (over 330') long and is brand spanking new from the factory in Europe.  It is here to get some final fittings, like putting the rotor blades on the helicopter that sits on the back.  Oh yeah, those kind of details we all have to worry about....NOT.  It left a couple of days later and churned up the bottom in the harbour as it tried to back out and turn. It churned up sand until it hit the channel.  Where can you really take such a huge yacht these days??  You can't even get close to some of the islands in somehting this big.  But it sure is pretty!
 There were cameras and tripods and lighting folks everywhere doing some filming.  I took a picture of this interview happening right off the bow of MIRA and got a snooty look from the guy on the right and a nasty look and shake of his head from the sound technician as my camera made a sound when the shutter clicked.  No idea who the interviewee is.
 MIRA cleaned and put back to showroom style, complete with pillows in the cockpit.  White is the predominant color on MIRA and we cleaned it hard upon arrival.
 All put back together and ready for the family to visit.  The long passage and the delay in cleaning had Pam booking her and Glenn into the hotel here for two days to avoid living in the disaster area that was once her gleaming salon.  She had us stay an extra day onboard to finish the necessary work and helped us hunt for a place to stay for the next three weeks.  We'd decided we'd spend some time here, and Pam and Glenn decided they'd have us live aboard on anchor and do some boat projects for them while they returned to the States for the holidays, so our stay in Antigua would be extended even more.
 The view from our final dockside tie-up at the marina in Falmouth.
 MIRA tied up at the dock at Antigua Yacht Club Marina in Falmouth Harbour.  It was a rough passage at the beginning and end, but we were all glad to be here in Antigua.  A sheet line (rope) ripped a side panel on the enclosure right out of its stitches, but it can be sewn back good as new before they leave the island, so no lasting damage from the trip. An electrical gremlin that appeared a couple of days out turned out to be a broken battery isolation switch.  We think the factory guy may have torqued the screws too hard and cracked the plastic around the screws holding it together.  The rough seas finished off the crack and the intermitten electrical issues were symptoms of the connection being broken with the loose connection.  A new switch fixed that.
 Glenn, Pam, with daughter-in-law Larissa and their son, Andrew at Shirley Heights jump-up.  They were the first family members to arrive the day after we did.  Pam told them to get a hotel as we needed the extra day or two to get the boat situated and cleaned.
 Karen and Jason were there, too, at the jump-up, a big party with island music and food.  Shirley Heights is the highest point on the island and you can see both English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour, as well as Guadeloupe from here.
 Looking towards the two harbors, English Harbour below and Falmouth Harbour on the other side of the isthmus. MIRA is over there somewhere, but you can't spot her from here.  Quite the view.
 The local steel drum band played for the tourists at the gathering, held every Thurs and Sunday.
 A local makes bowls, fish, hats, etc. from palm leaves on the terrace.
 The stone buildings and walks once were part of an English settlement/fort here.  This is the English Harbour look out spot and you must pay $8/pp to get here.  This entire area is now a UNESCO Heritage Site.
 The fantastic sunsets are a big draw here. Folks fight for a spot on the ledge wall to get a photo or look for the green flash.
 We can see Guadeloupe on the left, 30 miles away in the dying light of the sunset.
 Glenn and Pam at the jump-up, having a great time.  The rum punches and dark and stormies didn't hurt, either.  We all had a couple of drinks and a great jerk BBQ meal.  They are such a nice couple.
 The trip log on the boat shows we did 1745 nautical miles (the Caribbean 1500,  plus a few miles extra).  The top speed of almost 16 knots was unexpectedly high; they thought it might have been on my watch one night in a nasty squall when winds were over 37 knots for a spell.  Pam had sent Glenn up to see what was going on and why we were heeling;  it was a bit rough and we had to fall off to regain some control.  I got teased about it for days.
Jason found us an apartment available from a local up on a hill overlooking part of the harbor.  It was cheaper than a room in Jolly Harbor and we would be close to any action here and available for help if needed.  We took our bags off of MIRA, loaded them into the landlady's vehicle (she works for the gov't and would drive them up to the apt after work), said goodbye to Pam and Glenn (temporarily) and headed up the hill out of town to settle into our new home for a few weeks.  It had been a great trip!